User-generated content (UGC) is incredibly influential over consumer behavior.
Brand messaging naturally comes with a biased tilt. UGC, however, is raw, 3rd party insight into a brand, product, or service. Due to that fact the UGC is (ideally) free of ulterior motives, it is an extremely powerful factor in how customers make decisions.
Honestly, when was the last time you bought something on Amazon without looking at reviews?
One of the main reasons for UGC’s effectiveness boils down to trust.
According to the 2019 Cision State of the Media Report, reporting the truth is now more important than ever before. Trust has become a business model; more than 51% of the organizations surveyed claimed that ensuring accuracy was the most important effort for their organization.
However, 63% of the surveyed journalists feel that the public has lost trust over the past few years. This is why using UGC is so incredibly important in any brand’s marketing efforts— it lays a foundation of trust.
People can turn to reviews to find accurate descriptions and trustworthy opinions of products. They can see how regular people, like themselves, feel about specific companies.
Since this marketing tactic is so successful and popular, many brands have gotten on board the UGC train, so to speak. Unfortunately, the popularity of UGC can potentially impact its effectiveness. The good news is there are plenty of unique trends on the horizon that can help your brand’s UGC stand out and make a bigger impact.
1. Social Sharing Becomes a Top Priority
There is no doubt about how big of a role social media plays in our daily lives. We are spending more time on social platforms than ever before, and many customers are looking to social media to guide their spending habits and make purchasing decisions. Depending on your company’s target audience, there is likely a particular social platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) in which most customers first hear of your brand. Therefore, you need to understand the nature of your customers’ preferred social network and share UGC that builds trust and recognition.
UGC can be shared directly on these social platforms or used to inspire social media content. Some businesses choose to share direct quotes from customer reviews as visual content, as seen here from Gunas New York’s Instagram post.
Feedback can also shed a spotlight on the topics that your brand’s social media content should cover. Most marketers find it very difficult to come up with new content ideas that are engaging to their audience, so using your customer reviews to guide your social media content focus is one way to keep things relevant. In order to do this, businesses should be collecting 360-degree reviews in order to collect further details, particularly about the reviewer’s experience.
For instance, when Trustpilot seeks out customer reviews, they ask users to describe the pros and cons along with star ratings for various features. One common pain point in Trustpilot’s case was related to issues with customer service, so this topic was covered in further detail on the company’s LinkedIn post.
Not only did this address a common pain point, it provided a quick answer to alleviate it.
Another way to generate more social UGC is by monitoring conversations and joining in at the right time. You will likely want to use a social media listening platform for this so your marketing and PR team are alerted when brand conversations begin. Whether the sentiment is positive, negative, or neutral, replying to a customer’s post can be a great opportunity for connection and engagement. It is also a great place to showcase your brand’s personality or sense of humor, as demonstrated in the response from Sainsbury’s PR team on Twitter.
2.Using UGC for Effective Visual Marketing
Visual marketing is clearly important because of its higher engagement rates and effect on customers; the same applies to UGC. Sharing pictures and videos from customers is important, especially since many people look for “real” pictures of products during their research phase.
However, getting customers to share lots of visual UGC can seem like pulling teeth. In most cases, you will need to incentivize customers to share photos or videos of your products. One way to do this is through a giveaway or promotion, particularly on visual platforms like Instagram. Ask customers to share a photo along with a branded hashtag for an entry into an incentivizing giveaway. This will motivate your followers to create visual UGC which is easily sharable and searchable.
You can also motivate your followers to share their experiences by cultivating a brand community through visual content. Again, this is most often done on social media because it is the perfect platform for connection. The athletic apparel brand Outdoor Voices is an excellent example of how to create this type of community in a meaningful way. The brand regularly shares UGC and encourages their followers to share their own experiences via the branded hashtag #DoingThings.
3. AI and UGC Working Together
Is there anything AI can’t do?
This technology has been a trend for quite some time now, and its influence in UGC is by no means an exception. As more and more UGC is being shared online, it can become extremely difficult for brands to manage all of the content distribution methods that are available.
Many AI systems are built to manage large amounts of data, including UGC. Through machine learning technology, AI programs can automatically tag images and videos with relevant keywords for easy searching.
This makes it much easier for brands to organize their visual UGC and search for relevant pieces that contain targeted keywords. This is also extremely helpful for UGC that includes specific products, such as a specific article of clothing. AI can analyze the photo and match it directly to the product page on your company’s website so that a direct link can be embedded on the post.
Another way that AI can assist in UGC marketing is by evaluating which content pieces are going to be the most engaging with other audiences. Again, this information is formed through machine learning which tracks customer behavioral data to determine which pieces are going to generate more engagement with your specific audience.
UGC is certainly nothing new. But there are some innovative ways to use it that can benefit your brand. By sharing genuine content that comes from trustworthy sources (i.e. other customers), your company is showing that it cares about its customers.
Instead of testing the waters of UGC simply because it’s popular, see how you can use it to benefit both the customer and the company.
About Manish Dudharejia:
Manish Dudharejia is the President and Co-Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.